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Darkness - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

797 Reviews

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Reviews: 797
Hads: 3,279
Avg: 4.42
pDev: 9.5%
Wants: 3,259
Gots: 1,185 | FT: 84
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Russian Imperial Stout |  10.30% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: ryantupy on 10-08-2006

Starting in 2014, bottled Darkness will be aged in whiskey barrels. This listing is ONLY for Darkness that is NOT barrel-aged. For 2014 Darkness go here:  http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/p ... 14/141724/ 

2007-Grim Reaper
2012 - Werewolf
2013 - Brewcifer
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Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 797 | Hads: 3,279
Photo of AwYeh
3.96/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

2010 vintage, poured into snifter. Thanks to readbaron for trading me this.

A: Pours an opaque pitch black, no hints of even a dark brown around the edges, with three fingers of foamy, oatmeal-thick brown head capping off the glass. Outstanding retention and lacing; this is a great looking beer.

S: Thick and rich, this one is a malt overload. Tons of roasted malts, with lots of chocolate, hints of sweet espresso, and the tangy musty smell of dark dried fruits- raisins, prunes, and currants. Hints of ethanol as the beer warms (though these don't show up in taste).

T: Lots of flavors at play here, with the chocolate from the nose emerging immediately. Tangy, fruity flavors are in control for the rest of the way, with a long, lingering, slightly acidic, sweet finish. With warmth, a chocolate flavor comes into play on the finish as well.

M: Extremely smooth- possibly the smoothest beer I've ever tasted. Medium-bodied with light carbonation, Darkness has a slightly creamy finish which makes the flavor even more enjoyable.

D: A good beer and an enjoyable glass, even if the balance lies a bit too much in favor of the beer's intense, sweet fruit flavors. Alcohol is well hidden and the smoothness made the first half of my glass disappear quickly, though things were bordering on cloying for the second glass.

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Photo of bbb099
3.96/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

2009 vintage (Mummy). Thanks a bunch to scottfrie for sharing this with me. Reviewed on 12-18-2010.

A - Jet black color with a brown colored head. Appears to be quite viscous.

S - Strong burnt, roasted malt aroma.

T - Pure roasty flavor accompanied by some molasses and woody taste. Some chocolate and alcohol on the way down.

M - Full bodied. Very thick. Moderate carbonation.

D - Leaves some alcohol burn, but does have a great taste that keeps you wanting more.

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Photo of erz316
3.96/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle into guinness pint glass. 2009 vintage

the bottle pours a kind of stealth head: at first it seems to be making no head, so then I pour a bit harder, and we get a bit of progress; then the whole thing explodes with this slow moving, creeping foam. I think at the most it was three fingers, it retains well enough. the colour of the foam is a solid tan colour, and the texture is very creamy. the body is indeed dark, but some light does get through the bottom. the nose is simply malts with bitter hops, quite hoppy actually. the taste is quite like the nose: a very hoppy RIS with a huge malty keel. aside from the hops, it is pretty standard tasting for my palate. a bit of something sweet, like cherries, on the aftertaste. the feel is good, pretty thick, but not as much as dark lord.

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Photo of Cedromar
3.95/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

C'est la vie.

2009 Vintage acquired in trade, but I can't remember with whom. If you see this and we did the trade, shoot me a BM and I'll edit accordingly.

I've been fortunate to try the '07 and '08 Darkness and am now sampling the '09.

Well, this is one is a disappointment. '07 is plain and simply, the tits and '08 is like a bowel movement after having the spiciest indian food you've ever eaten.

Appearance is good, pitch black with a two finger head that wuickly fades to small bubbles.

Smell is dark fruits with a nice hoppy backbone.

Taste is again good, not great. The hop bite is there first, followed closely by the not-as-overpowing sweetness that plagued the '08 edition.

Mouthfeel is the best part of the '09 edition. Silky smooth all they way down into my belly.

The overpowering sweetness really hurts the drinkability of this brew.

In short, Darkness and I have a love hate relationship, much like the re-launch of Doctor Who. '07 is Tennant, the 10th Doctor, arguably the best. '08 is Eccleston, the 9th Doctor, far too cheeky for its own good, and the '09 is Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, there's promise, but right now it has some pretty big shoes to fill to be the best.

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Photo of Patchmaster
3.93/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Scored this bottle thanks to newk340. This was a 2010 shared with the family over the holidays. This had been one of my top wants. I'm glad I was able to knock this off my list. I wish I could say I was blown away. Unfortunately the Darkness didn't lead up to the hype that I was expecting.

A- Pours jet black as a normal head would dark brown with a small head.

S- I expected more layers from this. I was hoping for the complexities to really show. I get a lot of malts and a faint hint of dried fruits maybe a prunes???

T- Lot of malts and again the flavor of prunes. I wouldn't consider it bad, just nothing amazing.

M- Very thick. Like drinking a milkshake. This was the best aspect of the beer.

D- Overall this is a great beer. I might just stick with the Old Raspy and not have to worry about the trade. Darkness is a great representation of a RIS. The hype train has grabbed on and won't let go.

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Photo of jwinship83
3.93/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

taken from notes. served 2 9oz pours at two brothers "for the love of hops." plastic cups both times. moderately priced at 6$ each.

A- this one pours a viscous black colored body with a very small coffee colored head which lasts only a second. it might be the plastic cups, but none of the beers served that day left any decent lacing to speak of. this one was no exception.

S- dark roasted malts and a lot of sweetness. sweeter than most stouts. reminds me of raisins and plums. some coffee/hops at the end. milk chocolate throughout.

T- the taste was as sweet as the smell. kind of off putting to be honest. lots of chocolate and raisins. more hops at the end than the average stout. that was kind of cool.

M- thick and full bodied. chewy and palate coating. a nice low level of carbonation really works in this one's favor.

D- easy enough to drink but i dont think i could have had more than two without wanting to switch to something else. nice to see this one on tap again in this area. it had been a while. not the greatest stout of the fest, but nothing to pass on either

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Photo of ChadQuest
3.93/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Drove over an hour into Chicago where thanks to the Craft Brewers convention there was a firkin being tapped that i was able to partake in.

Got my tulip for $7 which i thought very reasonable, and the head was just under a finger but tightly packed and coffee colored. black body under.

This is a sweet one through and through, there is just a small hint of roast and alcohol trying to hold the sweetness in check. It's not cloying, don't get me wrong, just absolutly on the sweet end of the spectrum. I got alot of milk chocolate, with a pretty syrupy sensation, not only on the mouth feel but the flavor as well, which was not really detrimental but just differant.

This was medium heavy thickness, but honestly thinner then i was expecting for such a stout.

The finish was a bit thin and had me sipping it every 3 seconds, i would never guess this was over 10%, no way, way to drinkable. i could have 40oz of this easily.

Glad i made the trip to enjoy this beer with some of my too seldom seen friends in the city.

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Photo of 1Adam12
3.92/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2011 vintage split with a buddy of mine. First thing that stuck out at me was how thin this poured. After all of the arguing about which is better between dark lord and darkness, I was expecting it to look thicker. Black in color, but thin. Nice nose, lots of malt, roasts and chocolate. Taste was sweet, coffee, loads of chocolate jumped out at me. Bitter taste as well. Mouthfeel was thin. It coated the mouth, but it was very thin. Also, the flavors really didn't linger. Overall, this was a very tasty beer that I would drink again in a heartbeat, however IMO there is absolutely no debate on which is better between this and DL.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.92/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter. 2011 bottle. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Black with nice lacing. Small khaki head.

Smell - Roasted chocolate. Sweet caramel in there too. Fruity with some licorice.

Taste - Sweet, for sure. More than I expected. It blends well with the roasted malts, though. Licorice and dark fruits. Ashy bitter malt finish.

Mouthfeel - Heavy and sweet. Medium carbonation.

Overall - Lots of sugar in this guy. Not to Dark Lord levels, but sweet. It's what Dark Lord should be.

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Photo of HoldensHomebrew
3.92/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2010 Vintage

A-Black thick oil liquid black. Just as a Good Imperial Stout should be. VERY long lasting light brown head.

S- Milk chocolate and roasted malts dominate.

T-Chocolate and roast blend but not what I expected from this very hyped beer. I was left wanting, it is a decent stout but nothing exceptional.

M-Medium full bodied, would have preferred a more viscous fluid to chew on.

D-Was good, not great. Expected more, was left wanting. It doesn't compare to some of the other great Imp Stouts wondering out there. Wish for a more balance smooth flavor with it also being more intense.

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Photo of hellbilly
3.92/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

someone opened this at bill and wendy's though i'm pretty sure everyone in the room had one with them!...

2008 with a bitchin' label... pours just lighter than black with a light tan head which lingers and leaves an abundance of spotty lacing. pine-like hops hit the nose first but soon turn to sinus numbing citrus peel... secondary scents of chocolate, malt powder, nutty/coffee, grass and leafy green hops.

the palate is quite sweet... almost to cloying but the power of the hops make it a bit easier to enjoy. the flavor shares the characters of the aroma but also has some woodiness and a distinct savory note. there is a long lingering aftertaste of malted chocolate malted milk with pine needles in it. medium to medium/full bodied with a creamy almost oily mouth feel. pine-like and leafy hops keep it really easy to drink and bring it back from the brink of sticky...8/4/7/4/17/4.0

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Photo of Etan
3.91/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2012 bottle shared by Oscar. Thanks!

A: Pours a dark cola color with a small tan head.

S: First off comes a sweet citric hoppiness. The hop notes mix with dark chocolate and roasted grain. It's actually smelling quite sweet, which I wasn't expecting.

T: Light charred bread, sweet milk chocolate, a bit of sticky pine resin and grapefruit hoppiness, cocoa, sugary grain.

M: Thick-bodied, low carbonation.

O: An enjoyable beer, although it was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, and a bit sweeter than I would have liked.

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Photo of ghostwalker
3.91/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2011 Edition
Appearance: Dead black body, light mocha head.

Nose: Light, not much. I expected more aroma.

Flavor: Semi-light for an RIS, hoppy. Cocoa and cofee on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Thin but coating.

Overall: Rich, flavorful, surprisingly drinkable. A really good RIS, only marred by the thin body.

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Photo of TCMike
3.91/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a mug. It's called Darkness for a reason, this stuff is black. It had a 3 finger caramel head which took quite a while to dissipate.
The smell was different. I picked up an olive, wine, plum like smells.
The taste was that of a thick, and powerful potion, with a middling bitter at the end. It was good, but not one to drink in mass quantities. It's one that I'll try again at the next release.

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Photo of BarrytheBear
3.91/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

09' Mummy vintage into my go-to stout approved snifter

Dark pour with a beautiful cinnamon colored fluffy head: nice

Smells perplexing with an initial whiff of powdery cocoa, currant, and a hefty dose of vegetative hops. There is a prevalent scent that I cannot wrap my senses around. It's alternately pleasantly sweet and sickening so. My beak hovers over the glass in a vain attempt to understand.

The initial taste matches the nose quite well. Sweetness is kept in check by a medley of light chocolate, currant, and a dark fruit/berry medley - plums? Leafy plantlike hops add a nice finishing shot. Served right out of the cellar at 55, this was quite appealing. As the beer warms, it becomes more muddled. Sweetness begins to overpower this beer and it's more difficult to separate the enjoyable initial layers. Borders on cloying.

Initially, on the tongue, this beer is a bit oily, but once it hits the back of the throat it's a stouty milkshake, almost chewy.

The drinkability on this beer decreases as it warms. While not overpowering, the alcohol creeps in as the bottle dwindles.

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Photo of andrewinski1
3.91/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from 2009, but drank today. Poured into a tulip. A large, tiny bubbled light brown head fills the glass. It's about 3 inches and doesn't settle down for a while.

There is an overwhelming aroma of chocolate. A bit of hop aroma is noticed, but it is quite secondary.

The taste starts out sweet and chocolatey. The roasted flavor is relatively mild here. Most bitterness that is detected is in the finish and I would attribute it to a hoppy bitterness.

The mouthfeel is full and smooth. This is a thick brew. The carbonation is appropriately smooth, and not prickly.

This is a really big, kind of sweet stout. A very good offering.

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Photo of Casey10
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I have had this in my cellar for some time as it is the 2008 edition. I tried it and felt it somewhat average.

The beer was a nice black and chocolate look.

S - Some chocolate notes some coffee not really strong.

T - was good did not blow me away it had a bit of chocolate coffee taste a bit astingent but not bad.

M- chewy is the best I can decribe it it went down a little tough, not bad bet did not blow me away.

D - A little low because it was hard to come by and not too sure if I would have another. Might have another year but for this year that is waht I am rating it.

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Photo of emmasdad
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours thick, oily and black, so black no light passes through, with a nice mocha head. Big aromas on the nose: hops, chocolate, roast, coffee and licorice. The first taste brings a suggestion of hops, followed quickly by warming alcohol. Roasted malt, dark fruit and chocolate covered espresso beans. Finishes thick and rich, with a nice kick of alcohol heat. A very good beer.

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Photo of JDV
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Huge, huge thanks to miketd for his generousity in hauling this beer down to Texas and sharing it with us!! I've been looking forward to this one for many months.<Br>
Pours dark black with a short lived tan head. Smell is chocolately, some faint cake like sweetness and some really roasty sharp, bitter hops in the nose. Some dryness. Taste is dry, roasty, and very hoppy for the style, and a bit more than I'd like. Somewhat of a meaty, roasty flavor too. Slick, oily mouthfeel. Very good, for sure, with no hint of the ABV, but not my favorite Imperial Stout.

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Photo of stealth
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had Darkness on-tap at Darkness Day 2011. Lots of chocolate and dark fruits in the aroma. Some coffee. Extraordinary aroma. First taste was heavenly - tons of chocolate, fruit. I thought chocolate covered figs. Sticky sweetness overtook everything as I worked through each glass, however, and detracted quite a bit from the overall experience. Have some bottles aging in hopes that the sweetness gets a bit subdued. "Did you expect it to be that sweet" was the most common thing I overheard at DD this year.

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Photo of indiapaleale
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

~ 2008 Vintage ~
Pour - super dense, rich and thick like motor oil as it drains into a glass leaving a relatively thin velvet-y head. I got a kick out of how viscous this stuff was and the "legs" it left inside the glass as it poured. Damn, this is not for the faint of heart. Be warned.

Aroma - big bready, malty, chocolatey, licorice-y, caramel-y and overall molasess-y. Some alcohol heat comes through in the nose as well. This just smells like it could cause cavities or cause a person's blood sugar to spike.

Taste - MALTY MALT MALT! Wow, this is like drinking malt extract with licorice and brown sugar mixed in. This is borderline cloying its so sweet and dense. I guess you need a literal ton of malt to brew a beer of this magnitude and it certainly does taste that way. Some flavors that I thought were oxidization were just caramel malt and alcohol heat. Even after 18 months in the cellar this is still hot. Brown bread dough soaked in rum and then mixed into a potent stout should sum things up nicely. If you like malty brews this is going to please you, if you want more than strong and dark you might be a bit let down. I need to have some of this fresh to see what those hops (85 IBUs!!!) might do for this brew.

Overall - sweet, very sweet. This is a malt lover's dream and a little more one-sided than I had hoped. It almost reminded me of a super-strong Baltic Porter as it had some licorice and anise notes that were very similar. In the end I'd say it lived up to the hype when it comes to the strength and complexity but was not as drinkable as I had hoped.

Would I buy more of it? - I was fortunate it enough to receive this bottle from a very generous beer loving friend in the Midwest. If I lived within a few hours of Surly I'd certainly make the pilgrimage each year just for the fun of it.

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Photo of SQNfan
3.9/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

On tap: Dark in color with a roasted coffee and chocolate nose. This continues into a palate that I hoped carried a little more density. While a very nice beer I came out with the feeling that some barrel aging would smooth and fill out the midpalate.

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Photo of EgadBananas
3.88/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of HopsSchnapps! Thanks man!

Cracked at midnight last night, but couldn't finish. Going at it again!

Black. Void of light. Pours with a dark brown finger of head. Smells of char, roast, chocolate and an intense coffee. Tastes more chocolaty. Still some charred notes and roasted notes. Slight hops on the finish. Body is full, creamy and luscious. Finish is so clean and smooth it's scary.

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Photo of ccrida
3.88/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2008 vintage, cellared since release. Poured into my Delirium Tremens snifter, Darkness is dark, thick, with a dark tan head leaving lots of lace.

Smell is on the sweet, malty side.

Taste is fairly sweet malt, chocolate, modest roast, nice hop bitterness as well as still some spicy, herbal hop flavor. Obviously way dialed down compared to how it is fresh, better integration by now.

Mouthfeel is pretty silky, on the thick side.

Drinkability is fine. It's a well made RIS. Certainly not worth any great expense or hassle to acquire though. I traded mine with a local for some limited release HOTD, dollar for dollar, which was fair.

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Photo of BeerTruth
3.88/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

younger35 was kind enough to pick up a bottle of this for me. A great trader and a great frined, even though he's a Raiders fan. Thanks a bunch man, you're a true beer advocate.

750 ml multi-color wax dipped bottle poured into a snifter. 2008 vintage. Served at about 50 degrees.

Pours a complete onyx black with a powerful two finger dark brown head that remains for quite sometime. After a good five minutes or so and lots of clingy spiderweb lacing on the sides of the glass, a creamy layer of goodness rests atop the black hole underneath. Smell...whoa hops. Sticky pine, bitter pink grapefruit, and raw gritty earth up front in the nose. Underneath all those hops is the dark stuff. Coffee grinds, sweet molasses, and heavy roasted malts add to the complex aroma. So much going on in the nostrils, time for a sip. Taste begins with burnt caramel, candy sugar, and smokey dark chocolate. Some booze, figs, and oily hops midway. Not nearly as much hop flavor on the tongue than were in the smell, but they're still there. Finishes with a gooey brownie batter, raspberries, and spruce. Do I dare say there's too much going on for the taste buds to function? Perhaps. Big, bold, and chewy feel with a full body and subtle carbonation. The one problem I find with the mouthfeel is the powerful bittering hop sting. Overall the 10% abv is hidden quite well, but Darkness is still a sipper. Needless to say, this is a super complex, big ass beer and definitely one of a kind. Good? Of course. Exceptional? That may be a stretch. Surly continues to produce some crazy beers, what's next??? Thanks again Dan.

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Darkness from Surly Brewing Company
98 out of 100 based on 797 ratings.